Get to know Timothy: IACT alumni, and CEO and Founder of OK RDY.
Draw inspiration from former InnovationACT participants as they share their journeys, and find out where our program can take you. After completing the program, many IACT alumni choose to continue developing their skills and networks, go on to start their own businesses, initiatives and programs in a variety of fields, as well as lend their talents to countless others and give back to the IACT community.
This week, we’d like to introduce you to IACT alumnus, Timothy McKay. Timothy’s team was one of the (very deserving!) grant recipients from last year’s program, working on a mentorship matching platform that has seen a great deal of growth, interest and recognition in the past year, including being recognised as ACT Startup of the Year at the most recent Australian Information Industry Association’s iAwards.
When did you participate in IACT? Tell us a bit more about your team and idea back then.
I participated in the 2017 cohort of InnovationACT. The team was made of ANU and UC current students and alumni, with a range of different skills across marketing, communications and computer science.
Back then, I had been conducting a lot of research and development at the early stage, with hundreds of interviews and validation, working on my own wireframes and concepts, etc. I entered into InnovationACT to meet people from the student community, to meet people who may want to join the team, to allow us to further validate our concept, and to gain the skills from the workshops.
The program really encouraged and allowed us to push ourselves really hard, and we actually did a closed beta launch in the middle of the program to really test our validity and to see if people in the community were actually interested. We had about 150 people along to that, with 50% split of mentors and mentees, and with around 50% gender diversity, which was fantastic to see.
Are you still working on the same project? If so, how have it progressed since finishing the program?
Yes, I’ve definitely still continued with OK RDY. We’ve taken a lot of the feedback from the trials and taken the learnings from IACT and used those as touchpoints to redefine our product.
We’re now up to around 1,000 pre-registered users in the Canberra region alone, and we’ve also progressed discussions in Melbourne and Sydney in regards to expanding OK RDY’s footprint.
What were the most valuable things you gained from the IACT program?
One of the most valuable things was getting to meet a whole heap of like-minded innovators, entrepreneurs and big thinkers that have the willingness to change the world and be bold. We were also able to learn a lot about our user experience and making sure everything we do is user centric, how to deal with our multiple stakeholders and what each of them need, through to what tools, features and channels we would need to consider for our mobile app.
And what other support have you received from the broader innovation ecosystem in Canberra?
We’ve continued to have community support from the ANU, UC and a range of our partners, by way of community engagement, sharing of our journey on social media, and talking to us about some of the problems and opportunities they have around mentoring so they can continuing to grow our solutions. That continued support has really allowed us to get where we are today.
What other ways have you been involved in the innovation community?
I’m a mentor this year to two InnovationACT teams, and really excited to be working with them. I’ve also been meeting other innovators and entrepreneurs that might have come across us through our involvement in IACT or through social media, to share our journey or to give specific advice or context with what they’re working on. I think that this kind of thing can be really helpful to someone when they’re first starting out and it’s good to be able to give back.
Tell us more about OK RDY! And where do you see it in five years’ time?
OK RDY is a mentorship matching platform that helps connect students and companies to improve employability, diversity and cultural outcomes.
One of the big pain points and opportunities is that we haven’t built OK RDY in a way that’s just going to be a small Canberra consultancy – we built it using enterprise software so it can scale globally. At the moment, we’ve just been focusing on our minimum viable product for the Canberra region, exploring opportunities in broader Australia, but in five years’ time, we’d love to have OK RDY’s mentoring presence in multiple countries around the world.
Clearly you’re a big advocate on mentoring. Have you ever had your own mentors?
Definitely. Part of why I’m where I am today is due to mentors, whether they be personal or professional. From early stage ongoing support from mum and dad, through to individuals in my workplaces that I’ve actively gone out and sought to be mentors. As part of my professional journey, there were instances where I didn’t take promotions at certain points in my career so that I had the opportunity to take on certain people as a mentor and guide, rather than worrying about chasing the money. It was a strategic decision that meant allowed me to build up my skills and network, and grow personally and professionally.
What tips would you have for young entrepreneurs?
I would say talk to people. You need to really research the market on what you’re doing, what else is currently out there that’s similar and then have a really clear vision of what you are looking to achieve. If you’re the only one that can see this solution to a problem, you’ve got to be able to articulate that and share that message in a way that will allow people to join you on that journey. And a lot of the time that comes from simply talking to people, figuring out their pain points, the extent of their problem, etc. and then you will have a better understanding of the opportunity to grow a user base behind it.
Any specific advice for IACT18 participants?
Practice your pitch. If you haven’t done a full run-through of your pitch at least 15-20 times, you need to. You don’t want to stumble over your words, you should make sure you’re confident without palm cards and be confident answering questions about your venture. Convey that presence on stage, then your judges, supporters, potential investors, etc. will believe you.
And in true IACT style, what’s your final ask for the readers?
For IACT participants, know that OK RDY is here for you. While we’re still growing our professional network, we welcome you to join our community, and we’ll do our best to connect you with mentors or professionals in sectors you’re interested in, to help you grow your network. You can register your interest via okrdy.com.
And for industry partners, anyone that’s interested in growing or scaling your mentoring programs, particularly around diversity and inclusion, we’d love to have a chat to you about our OK RDY framework and how it can help you create better social impact. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.